Ukrainian President offers amnesty to protesters

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Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych says he is offering amnesty to jailed protesters

He also says he is moving toward closer ties with the European Union

Protesters were upset that he spurned an agreement with the EU

CNN  — 

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych offered amnesty to the protesters detained after mass anti-government rallies in Kiev, the President’s office said Friday.

Yanukovych said authorities should “release the arrested people and even those who have already been convicted. We should put an end to this conflict.”

Ukrainian protesters, angry about the government’s decision last month to spurn a free-trade agreement with the European Union in favor of closer economic ties with Moscow, have stood their ground in Kiev’s Independence Square, or Maidan, paralyzing the center of the capital.

On Thursday, the European Union’s top diplomat said the Ukrainian President intends to sign a deal on closer EU ties after weeks of the mass protests.

The Ukrainian President made a comment to the same effect: “We are not refusing and have not refused European integration,” Yanukovych said. “We went and will go on the path of reform, which will bring us closer toward European criteria.”

The President criticized both protesters and police for their actions in the clashes.

“I will say frankly: I am indignant at radical actions of provocateurs and law enforcement officials that were not always adequate,” he said.

“Different people stand for different positions, but they all are our compatriots and we must listen to them and take their point of view into account,” he said. “There is a common desire to make our life better.”

Yanukovych spoke Friday at a round-table talk with three Ukrainian opposition leaders.

Opposition leader and boxing world champion Vitaly Klitschko said Friday that his Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform party will take part in the round-table talks and that he believes that the only way out of the political crisis is a complete reboot of power, namely early presidential and parliamentary elections.

Ukraine is split between pro-European regions in the west and a more Russia-oriented east.

Protesters have said an EU agreement would open borders to trade and set the stage for modernization and inclusion. They accuse Yanukovych of preparing to take the country into a Moscow-led customs union.

Journalist Victoria Butenko and CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh contributed to this report.